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'Never been this proud' – Inside-the-park home run helps Beechwood win 4th straight 9th Region title

Beechwood beat Highlands 6-5 in the 9th Region championship game
beechwood ice water.jpg
Posted at 1:28 AM, May 25, 2023

FLORENCE, Ky. — Coming into Wednesday, Beechwood and Highlands had combined to win the last seven championships in Kentucky's ninth region.

Beechwood had won the last three. Highlands won four consecutive titles from 2015 to 2018.

That streak was bound to continue for an either year. Wednesday night's 2023 championship game featured those same two programs.

Beechwood jumped out to an early 5-1 lead, before Cameron Boyd cranked a ball deep off the centerfield wall in the fourth inning.

Boyd raced around the bases in a blazing 15.07 seconds, before jogging across home plate, uncontested, for an inside-the-park home run.

It gave Beechwood a 6-1 lead.

In the bottom-half of that same inning, Highlands got three runs back on Zach DeSylva's bases-loaded triple.

Despite giving up a run in the ninth inning and seeing the game-winning run come to the plate for Highlands, Beechwood held-on for a 6-5 win.

It marks the fourth consecutive regional title for Beechwood, dating back to 2019 (The 2020 season was canceled).

"This year, no one gave us a chance," said Beechwood's head coach, Kevin Gray. "With what we had happen before the season – with Mitchell and all that."

Mitchell Berger was one of Beechwood's top players, both in baseball and football. He was injured, though, during football season, and was forced to miss baseball this spring.

"They just persevere and work hard," said Gray. "Everyday we come to practice, they work hard."

It's somewhat of a miracle that Beechwood ended up in Wednesday's championship game.

In Monday night's semifinal game against Dixie Heights, Beechwood was trailing by a run, and down to one final strike in the game.

That's when Landon Johnson hit two runs home. It proved to be the game-deciding play in a 4-2 win.

It was the second time this season that Beechwood had found a miraculous way to win on that same field.

The other was on April 3, when a grand slam provided the game-winning run during the All-A Classic. Beechwood was down to its final strike when that happened, as well.

Shortly after Wednesday's title game, players dumped ice water on Coach Gray – a ceremonial championship celebration.

"Oh man, I'm freezing right now, with this wind," said Gray.

He said was starting to get sentimental with his players, when the ice water came pouring.

"I was just telling them how proud I am of them. I was tearing up before the ice water hit me," said Gray. "I've never been this proud in my life, of a group of kids."

Beechwood now advances to the Kentucky state tournament (Round of 16). There are no classes or divisions in Kentucky high school baseball. There is one tournament, and one state champion.

Beechwood will face Apollo on June 1, for a ticket to the round of eight.

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